White Running Shoes and the Next Big Thing

I bought a new pair of running shoes the other day. I did a fair amount of research online, checked out reviews at Runner’s World, read what other buyers thought at Zappos, and then headed to the local big-box sporting goods store to try some on. After about 45 minutes in the shoe aisles I found a pair of supremely comfortable and supportive shoes – on sale! - and I headed home.

I showed my prizes to my 13-year-old son, and his comment was “Those are an old man’s shoes, Dad.”  An OLD MAN’s shoes? What? When I asked him why, he said: “Because they are white.”

He had a valid observation there. I was surrounded by hundreds of different types of running shoes at the store in every color under the sun, but the gray shoes, the black shoes, the orange and pink ones (not making that up) didn’t seem like “serious” running shoes so I didn’t even try them on.

(There is a technology-related point here - I promise!)

Part of my job at 501cTECH is to divine what the next big trends in nonprofit technology use might be. This past year, we have spent a not-insignificant amount of time integrating iPads and other tablets into networks.  I really think this is just getting started; and the big challenge in the next few years is going to be design and delivery of the office desktop on employer OR employee-provided mobile devices. This announcement by Canonical (they are the outfit behind one of the major Linux flavors called Ubuntu) reinforces this concept: Canonical is betting that you will carry your office desktop around in your phone, and ‘dock’ to a monitor keyboard and mouse when needed.

Like those running shoes, I suppose each of us will take that news in our own unique context. I suspect some of my younger co-workers here at 501 see this as a natural progress of technology; for me, however, the idea that I might be required to bring a device to the office to get work done is akin to requiring employees to bring their own chair and pencils. It’s unsettling; and the blurring of work and not-work time makes it especially so. My co-workers know not to call me during the dinner hour, but I had to “train” the ED of a nonprofit I volunteer with last week - it was amusing as I was eating dinner and he rang my cellphone, then the home phone, and then my wife’s cell in sequence.  I called him back after dinner, and the topic was important – but it could wait 45 minutes. Fried chicken tastes best hot, and right out of the pan!

One of the truisms you’ll often hear about working for a nonprofit is “We can’t pay as much, so we have to give good benefits and pay attention to quality of life issues.” If I was in Human Resources, I would be paying special attention to this whole iPad and smart phone trend, and thinking through how nonprofits can differentiate from the “on-call 24/7” mindset that for-profits are embracing.

Talk to us, what does "BYOD" (Bring Your Own Device) mean to you? Do you ignore your phone at the dinner table, or are you on-call at all times?

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